September only lasted 4 days. It was August a minute ago. But somehow we’ve only gone and made it to October. October is our Death Month. She, the most important person in your life, passed away on your birthday. Sometimes I think that fact upsets me more than it upsets you. She left the world on the same day of the year that she brought you into it. Every year I try to make your birthday special but it’s difficult because I know it’s the saddest day of your year. We try not to have too much fun and don’t talk about her for more than a minute, and only good memories, not the horrific ones near the end. There is no grave to visit, nowhere to put flowers, nowhere to properly pay our respects. I think you’ll probably drive by your old house, past the garden that she loved so much, the garden where you sowed her ashes. You might even pull up outside for a few minutes and stare at it. You probably won’t tell me if you do that and that’s fine because grief is universal but unique, and you grieve differently than I do. You, for example, don’t have a single photograph of her whereas I have photos of my father in every room. Every year on your birthday I propose a toast to you, and then we raise our glasses to your mother, imagining her in paradise getting high with my dad and listening to old records and dancing and laughing laughing laughing. They’re happy and safe and not in pain anymore. We’re in pain every day but that’s fine as long as they aren’t.
My father died on my ex-boyfriend’s birthday. We didn’t know it at the time, but one of the reasons we broke up when we did was because the stars had already secretly dictated that my father leave on that date, and if we’d still been together I would’ve been out with you at some Michelin-starred restaurant on the evening that he passed away, drinking horrible wine and ladling £108 soup into each other’s mouths and pretending that we don’t resent each other and I would’ve missed my father’s death, I would’ve missed it, I would’ve been out with you, perhaps even abroad, somewhere sunny, celebrating your birthday, instead of sitting by my father’s bedside saying, “It’s okay, Pops, you can let go now, you can go, it’s alright, drift off, you’re safe, let go” and “Don’t go, please, Dad, don’t you fucking give up, don’t leave me, please don’t leave me, come on, Dad, fucking fight this, don’t you leave me, you can’t leave me, Dad, not now” giving him a terribly confusing alternating set of instructions and watching his soul leave his body, slowly, up through the grey hospital ceiling, leaving behind just a body, a body that his soul once inhabited, watching his colour change, holding his hand, feeling it go from warm to cold, squeezing it for one last time, and letting go. I wouldn’t have been there because I would’ve been with you. It was important that I was there. Vital, even. So that’s why we had to break up when we did, but we didn’t know it at the time, but now we do so things make a little bit more sense to you now than they did before. I hope.
October is our Death Month. Two Death Days. The 6th and the 26th and it’s going to be fucking horrible but we’re going to get each other through it because we have no choice but to get the other one through their respective Death Day. We will drink even more than usual and we won’t be strong enough to listen to Bob Dylan and you’ll wonder how I physically have so many tears left and one or both of us with punch a wall in anger and they might visit us in dreams or nightmares but it will be fine, and before we know it it will be November and we’ll go to Primrose Hill to watch the fireworks and we’ll go to that cosy pub and talk about our dead parents over mulled cider and a bowl of nachos because we can, because we survived our Death Month and just because they’re not here that doesn’t mean that they’re not here and our parents were the best people ever and they brought us up the best way they could and we won’t have to face our dreaded Death Days for another year and they live on through us and we are stronger than we think.